Paul Zahra to take over as CEO of the ARA

Photo of Paul Zahra, CEO of the Australian Retailers Association.
Photo of Paul Zahra, CEO of the Australian Retailers Association.

Former CEO of David Jones Paul Zahra will succeed Russell Zimmerman as chief executive of retail’s peak industry body, the Australian Retailers Association, in May.

Zahra said he was optimistic about the future of retail and looking forward to supporting and advocating for the ARA’s members.

“In the last twenty years, the disruption and transformation of the sector has been significant as a result of ongoing changes in technology and consumer behaviour,” he said in a statement announcing his appointment on Thursday.

“However, what excites me is the untold story of innovation, whether in store formats, in online marketplaces, or the many small businesses that started life in someone’s living room.”

Creating “one voice” for all retailers

The ARA council said Zahra has the leadership skills and retail expertise to transform the ARA into “one voice” for small, medium and large retailers, after a long-planned merger with the National Retail Association (NRA) fell through last year.

“Paul brings a deep understanding of retail and the issues and opportunities faced by the industry and our members,” said ARA president Rowan Hodge.

“His inclusive and progressive leadership style, retail and digital expertise, broad networks, experience leading transformation, and strong vision for the ARA and the future of retail will be invaluable as the organisation moves forward.”

Hodge also thanked Zimmerman for his commitment to the ARA and its members for the past decade.

Zimmerman announced his retirement plans last November, saying he was making way for a new leader who had “the energy, youth and wherewithal” to take the ARA into its next phase.

From Sunshine to CEO

Zahra has worked in retail from the age of 16, when he was hired as a causal shop assistant at Target Sunshine, before being promoted to become the chain’s youngest ever store manager at the age of 22.

He went on to hold senior leadership roles at Target, Officeworks and David Jones, where he rose through the ranks to became CEO.

Zahra is a long-time champion of diversity and inclusion in the workplace and previously served as the chair of PwC’s diversity and inclusion advisory board.

Recently, he has been advising companies and boards of startups, small businesses and private equity on a range of issues, including leadership, disruptive change, digital transformation and diversity and inclusion.

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